What does it mean when different labs get different results for the same research?
The first results from a major project to measure the reliability of cancer research have highlighted a big problem: Labs trying to repeat published experiments often can’t.
That’s not to say that the original studies are wrong. But the results of a review published Thursday, in the open-access journal eLife, are a sobering reminder that science often fails at one of its most basic requirements — an experiment in one lab ought to be reproducible in another one.
And the fact that they often aren’t could have big health implications. Many exciting ideas in cancer research never pan out. One reason is that findings from the initial studies don’t stand the test of time.
“Reproducibility is a central feature of how science is supposed to be,” says Brian Nosek, who spearheaded this research at the Center for Open Science.
Nosek is also a psychology professor at the University of Virginia. A few years ago, he organized a similar effort to examine research in his field. And his results garnered worldwide attention when two-thirds of the original findings in psychology couldn’t be reproduced.
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